President Donald Trump on Wednesday unleashed a new attack on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying it’s “disgraceful” that Sessions hasn’t launched an independent investigation into the handling of surveillance orders obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
“Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse,” the president asked in a tweet. “Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz is a former career DOJ attorney.
The dual criticism represents Trump’s latest offensive in an ongoing onslaught on the independence of the Justice Department. In past administrations, it’s been seen as highly improper for the president to dictate who DOJ investigates or how it does so.
Sessions announced Tuesday that Horowitz will be tasked with probing the alleged abuses committed by top FBI and DOJ officials in obtaining surveillance warrants against former campaign aide Carter Page. Those alleged abuses were outlined in a memo compiled by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), a Trump ally. National security experts and Democrats have dismissed Nunes’ conclusions, saying the memo lacks critical context and misstates evidence about why multiple judges decided to extend the warrant for Page.
As Trump noted in his tweet, Horowitz is currently probing the handling of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server — a pet issue for the president that Democrats, too, want answers about.
Trump’s comments about the probe may have been prompted by his TV-watching habits. Media Matters, a liberal watchdog group, has been tracking the correlation between what airs on Fox News and Trump’s morning tweets.
As the group’s senior fellow Matt Gertz noted, Fox’s “America’s Newsroom” aired a segment at the top of the 9 am hour on the IG probe, suggesting it may take a significant amount of time to complete. Trump’s tweet came just over thirty minutes later.